‘My life is my inspiration’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Nov 2018 12:32:52


By Aasawari Shenolikar


“Earlier I used to think that a movie works only because of the presence of superstars. But later,
I realised the real power is not in the content, the stories that come from our own lives, that reflect our culture and speak the language of the common man.”

He has found his voice through films. While growing up in a small village, he’d contemplate about many a thing that he observed, but never gathered courage to express his ideas. But when he grew up, Nagraj Manjule, found an outlet - through his writings, that later he translated for the celluloid so that a larger number of people could be privy to his notions. “The big screen is the place where I poured out my feelings and spoke to the audience through my characters,” he says while interacting with The Hitavada. Fandry and Sairat took birth from his pen and thoughts. And even before Fandry hit the local circuits, it was acclaimed critically at the international level, wining many a coveted award for the exemplary work that went into its making and the narrative “That my work was appreciated by an international audience also points out to the fact that language is no barrier for a discerning audience,” he reminisces.

Manjule’s writings reflect impressions from his own life. And that is where the beauty lies in his finished products. They are realistic to the core and have an instant connect with the audience. “Earlier I used to think that a movie works only because of the presence of superstars. But then as people connected to my work, I realised the real power is not in the superstars, but in the content, the stories that come from our own lives, that reflect our culture and speak the language of the common man.”

His films, made with newbies are not about celebrity status, but all about the raw talent that he is able to tap with his acumen. Sairat, as we all know, went on to create history in the world of Marathi cinema. How did things change post Sairat? Laughing he says, “Some good things happened , some things that I am not comfortable with happened because of Sairat. The huge success gave me name, fame and adulation. Most importantly it gave me my voice. I took nearly eight years to write the story, but the success was instant. I became a known name not only in Maharshtra, but internationally too.

Now, while going out, I contemplate wearing a burka! I was able to concentrate fully when I was shooting Fandry. But now, fans obsess over me. Of course this is their love for me for which I am grateful. But this hampers the work, it is an impediment in the creative process. In all this, I lost my privacy. I cannot walk on the road without people asking me to pose with them for selfies.”
That, however, is a small price he is paying for his success.
For, if success has got him recognition, it has also brought about a sense of responsibility. His films realistically depict the social evils still prevalent in the society and even though he feels that films do not have the power to completely change the social scenario, his films have brought a positive impact in the society. It is a small step, he says, but it is a step in the right direction.
“After Fandry was released in the USA, a girl from the audience walked up to me and said that she was moved by the caste discrimination that was shown in the film. Having grown up in a different society, she was unaware that such taboos still existed in society. She promised me that she will do what was in her power to spread awareness about this. This, I felt, was where my stories act as agents of change. I alone am not responsible for bringing about a reformation in the society, but my films have struck a chord and people have started giving the social evils a serious thought.”
A conversation, thus is the byproduct of Manjule’s films that focus on social atrocities.
But what made him pick up such stark subjects for his films? “I have never hidden my ancestry. I strongly feel that Dalits are still marginalised in our society and are looked down upon. Mainstream media nee tyacha kade sadaiv durlaksh kele aahe ( The mainstream media has always ignored the plight of the Dalits) and so when I got a chance to speak on their behalf, I did so through my movies. Howsoever ugly it might be, it is still a reality,” he states.
So have things become easier for him in the industry post the success of his films?
“Your work speaks for yourself. Of course, fame does come your way if your work is effective and fruitful. Some doors have opened. But then the challenges have also increased. I have set a bar and I need to ensure that the subsequent projects that I do surpass that bar.”
With this thought in mind, Manjule, with Jhund, will make his foray in Bollywood. Based on Vijay Barse’s life, Jhund will feature Amitabh Bachchan as the protagonist who teaches football to kids living in the slums. “I am hopeful that shooting will commence in Nagpur by December end, January beginning.”
Manjule has never believed in over publicizing his work. “I let the finished product speak for itself.”
And so it was with Naal, his next venture as an actor, that was kept under wraps until now. “I will let you be the judge of this wonderful story set in Vidarbha for which I have penned the dialogues.” A staunch believer, that to get the right flavour, films should be shot where they are born, Naal, was shot on the banks of Wainganga in Bhandara district. “Aaplya maati cha vaas yete and that gives it a very authentic flavour to the finished product.”
The writer - director-actor has taken the Marathi film industry by storm and his poignant stories have touched an emotional chord with the audience.
Nagraj Manjule has well and truly, found his voice.